Andrea Wolper

August 7, 2012 | By

Zinc Bar  –  July 30

There was a bit of old-time magic in the air even before the music started at the plush and dark Zinc Bar, located in the heart of old Greenwich Village. The pleasure of a summer evening stroll down West 3rd Street, filled with the ghosts of past music legends, lent an air of expectation when I settled into the velvety back room, awaiting another musical dreamer to take the stage.

Backed by a trio of sensational musicians, jazz vocalist Andrea Wolper did not disappoint. Intriguingly, she opened by reading one of her own poems, “I Took the Lid Off the Jar.” The metaphor of the title was an apt beginning, as Wolper et al proceeded to surprise and enthrall through two sets that went by entirely too quickly. (She later said, after another one of her poems, “I love words; why shouldn’t jazz and poetry meet?” In that regard, she leaned a little more on the side of cabaret artist. Most jazz artists, in my view, tend to favor becoming one of the instrumentalists, conveying their emotions through sound.)

Wolper immediately established herself as a woman of great intelligence and refined taste. And yet, her warm, open rapport with the audience allowed us to willingly enter into her world of music, which was often experimental but never off-putting. In the world of the late ’60s, her clarity of tone and absence of vibrato might have found her in the folk world. Yet Wolper is a jazz singer in every fiber of her being, with her conversational phrasing, rhythmic vocalizations, and fearless ability to twist and turn her vocal to whatever dissonance the band was serving up.

In keeping with the seasonably warm temperature and the relaxed evening, Wolper began with an extended version of “Blue Wind” (Duncan Sheik, Steven Sater) from Spring Awakening, which seemed tailor-made for a jazz arrangement. She then moved on to her own composition “The Girls in Their Dresses,” about the promise and yearning young New York women have as they playfully prance around town. Seemingly an improvised monologue in the middle of the song, Wolper’s lighthearted thoughts on where such girls should set their sights on being seen added a nice comic touch. From there, she went to “Maple Sugar Boy” (traditional); surely nobody else in town has found that little gem of a song, which Buffy Sainte-Marie recorded in the ’60s.

Other treats included “Mr. Hironouchi’s Grin” (Wolper), inspired by a Nicholas Kristof article in the New York Times about the Kobe earthquake of 1995; a celebratory “Something Good” (Richard Rodgers); and “You and the Night and the Music” (Dietz & Schwartz), in an arrangement that had almost a Bollywood feel.

Wolper does not slay with a commanding vocal instrument; her power lies in a slow seduction, something quiet and sly and confident, which ultimately wins you over. She pulls you into her spell. The three musicians that backed her on this night certainly added to the seduction. Even after having played together for some time, they are not phoning it in, and they appeared to be thoroughly enjoying themselves. Young, unassuming pianist Kris Davis wowed with her surprising, Mingus-like chord structures. Michael TA Thompson (soundrhythium) was having a ball on all things percussive. And Ken Filiano (bass) worked his stand-up like a great athlete works a field; I’ve never seen a player so capably work every surface of his bass, creating sounds that ranged from rumbling thunder to violin and everything in-between.

Andrea Wolper, another hardworking singer refining her craft year after year, finding her joy on stages large and small, but mostly in the endless joy of creative collaboration. Keep an eye out for her name. She’s well worth a visit to whatever nightspot is hosting her.

Category: Reviews

About the Author ()

Kevin Scott Hall performed in cabaret clubs for many years and recorded three CDs, including “New Light Dawning” in 1998, which received national airplay. He also worked at the legendary piano bar, Rose’s Turn, and has taught cabaret workshops and directed shows since 1995. Kevin earned his MFA in Creative Writing at City College of New York. He is an adjunct professor in the Theatre and English departments at City College and Borough of Manhattan Community College. His novel, “Off the Charts!” was published in 2010, and his memoir, “A Quarter Inch from My Heart” (Wisdom Moon), in 2014. Kevin writes a monthly column and entertainment features for Edge Media Network, writes reviews for, and freelances for other publications.

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